Hitchcock’s Music


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Jack Sullivan

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For half a century Alfred Hitchcock created films full of gripping and memorable music. Over his long career he presided over more musical styles than any director in history and ultimately changed how we think about film music. This book is the first to fully explore the essential role music played in the movies of Alfred Hitchcock.
Based on extensive interviews with composers, writers, and actors, and research in rare archives, Jack Sullivan discusses how Hitchcock used music to influence the atmosphere, characterization, and even storylines of his films. Sullivan examines the director’s important relationships with various composers, especially Bernard Herrmann, and tells the stories behind the musical decisions.  Covering the whole of the director’s career, from the early British works up to Family Plot, this engaging look at the work of Alfred Hitchcock offers new insight into his achievement and genius and changes the way we watch—and listen—to his movies.

Jack Sullivan is director of American Studies and professor of English at Rider University.  He is the author of New World Symphonies: How American Culture Changed European Music, published by Yale University Press. He lives in New York City.

Listen to Jack Sullivan discuss the 50th Anniversary of Vertigo on NPR’s “On Point”

"A wonderfully coherent, comprehensive, groundbreaking, and thoroughly engaging study of perhaps the most underexamined important element of Hitchcock's artistry."—Sidney Gottlieb, editor of Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and Interviews

"Hitchcock's sophistication about and control of film music is an important aspect of his greatness, and one that separates him from other pantheon directors. This deeply researched and keenly written book fills a void and should be indispensable to passionate Hitchcock scholars—and fans."—Patrick McGilligan, author of  "Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light"

"Hitchcock was a master of film music as well as cinema suspense, and Sullivan's spirited study lives up to its fascinating topic on every page. A milestone in Hitchcock criticism."—David Sterritt, author of "The Films of Alfred Hitchcock" 

"Jack Sullivan shows in arresting detail how Hitchcock and his gifted composers used music ingeniously not only to build suspense and punctuate the action but to amplify the whole emotional atmosphere of his films."—Morris Dickstein, CUNY Graduate Center

"A richly evocative study that combines important new scholarship with sparkling sensibility. Sullivan vividly documents Hitchcock's restless eclecticism and bold interweaving of musical styles—popular, classical, avant-garde, and electronic."—Camille Paglia, author of Sexual Personae and The Birds (BFI Film Classics)

"We might think Hitchcock needed music less than other filmmakers, but Jack Sullivan, in this lovingly researched and articulated book, shows he needed it more. Music said everything Hitchcock couldn't say, even in pictures, and Mr. Sullivan expertly proves that the master's every soundtrack tells an intricate and often romantic story."—Michael Wood, Princeton University


"Mr. Sullivan traces Hitchcock's entire oeuvre, beginning with his earliest work in England. . . . Mr. Sullivan plumbed Hollywood studio archives and inerviewed those who knew and worked with the director. There are fascinating accounts of the studio system under martinets like Selznick, with whom Hitchcock had a tumultuous relationship. . . . Fortunately, almost all of Hitchcock's work is now available on DVD, fairly inviting the reader to watch, and then read, chapter by chapter. . . . It is not only a valuable guide and insight into a filmmaker beloved by average filmgoers and scholars alike; it's an essential companion for any Hitchcock fan—and who isn't."—Bob Brown, The Princeton Packet 

“A fascinating new book. . . . [Sullivan] examines Hitchcock’s meticulous notes about film scores, pays attention to every casual calliope tune and chronicles the director’s arguments with studios and fallings out with composers while revealing new ways of thinking about Hitchcock’s music.”—Edward Rothstein, New York Times

"An important new book. . . The first monograph to be written about an individual film director's relation to music, it makes illuminating use of surviving archival material like the notes prepared by the director for the guidance of the composers with whom he worked."—Terry Teachout, Commentary

"A compelling read. A wonderful exploration of the personalities involved. You have to read this book!"—John Aielli, KUT Radio Newsletter

"The first book on Hitchcock, written by Cahiers du Cinema critics Claude Chabrol and Eric Rohmer was published in 1957. There are now 56 works on him on my shelves. That there is room for yet another is convincingly established by Jack Sullivan, a professor of English at Rider University, New Jersey, in the introduction to his lucid and , enthusiastic and meticulously researched Hitchcock's Music. This book is a major contribution to the understanding of both a great, infinately fascinating director and the movie making process. It should appeal to musicologists and to those with little technical knowledge of music."---Philip French, The Observer

"Sullivan's well-documented account, including some of Hitchcock's original music briefings, sheds a refreshingly different light on familiar film classics - and their creator."---Michael Scott Rohan, BBC Music Magazine

"Sullivan, endlessly curious of ear, does not merely cherry-pick everyone's favourite seven or eight Hitchcock movie scores, but carefully analyses the music in all of them: consideration of the curio Waltzes from Vienna, or the almost subliminal, atonal electronica for The Birds, lends nuance and depth to his larger arguments. By the end he has thoroughly justified his opening gambit: "One cannot fully understand Hitchcock's movies without facing his music. Music is an alternate language in Hitchcock, sounding his characters' unconcious thoughts as it engages our own."---Steve Poole, The Guardian

"incisive and convincing... a great triumph."---Frank McLynn, Literary Review

"Sullivan details Alfred Hitchcock's belief in music as an essential component of pure cinema—not just a background element, but quite literally a part of the action."—Rebecca Winzenried, Symphony

"A fascinating new study about the music in [Hitchcock's] films. . . . Sullivan  underatkes a sustained inquiry into every one of Hitchcock's sound films, even including his extensive work in television."—Afterimage

'Jack Sullivan's examination of the role music played in the dramatic and emotional impact of Hitchcock's films seems long overdue in moving the spotlight away from the sprocket to the stave.'  - Michael Quinn, Classical Music

"A landmark in its field and will surely be regarded as definitive."—American Record Guide

"...the year's best film book, Jack Sullivan's Hitchcock's Music... is a lucid, revealing account of the significance of music and musicians in Hitchcock's films."  - Philip French, Observer

"This detailed book will fascinate those who enjoy Hitchcock's films and television shows and wish to learn more about the director's techniques for making unique worlds out of his soundtracks. . . . Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers."—Choice

"A fascinating and scholarly account of some of the great scores in cinema."—Tim Robey, Daily Telegraph

Winner of the 2007 ASCAP Deems Taylor best book of the year award in the concert music category
ISBN: 9780300136180
Publication Date: May 20, 2008
384 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
30 b/w illus.
New World Symphonies

How American Culture Changed European Music

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